The DI and the smoking gun that wasn't
By Dr. Hector Avalos
Iowa State University
Posted December 18, 2007
I needed to look no further than the following post in Evolution News and Views
see clearly how the Discovery Institute misleads readers by selectively quoting
the supposed smoking gun e-mails from ISU. I know because, in this case, they
are quoting e-mails of mine.
The DI held a news conference on December 3 in Des Moines that
revealed -- drum roll, please—scientists do not like other scientists portraying
non-science as science. And from
this mass of e-mails they only managed to find this supposed inconsistency in
Hector Avalos, outspoken atheist
Professor of Religion at ISU: Then:
In the summer of 2005, Avalos e-mails ISU faculty, inviting them to sign a
statement calling on "all faculty members to ... reject efforts to portray
Intelligent Design as science" because of the "negative impact"
due to the fact that "Intelligent Design … has now established a presence
… at Iowa State University." Guillermo Gonzalez, being the only well-known
ID proponent who has "established a presence" at ISU, is the
undeniable target of such a statement. Later:
Avalos asserts publicly in the ISU
Daily, "The statement we wrote was in no way targeted
specifically at Gonzalez."
they are wrong about Gonzalez being the ONLY one who had established a
"well-known" ID presence at ISU. Another advocate of ID at ISU is Thomas
Ingebritsen, who was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2005, and who has been open
about his support for ID. He was
the one actually teaching a course that was quite favorable to ID.
DI scribes should know this because they said it themselves in a post dated
December 13, 2005
On the hand, Dr. Tom Ingebritsen,
associate professor of genetics in Iowa State's The Department of Genetics,
Development and Cell Biology (GDCB) has been teaching a course called "God
and Science" for the past five years that presents intelligent design in
at least a more neutral, if not favorable, light.
Do the math -- "for the past five years" would mean Ingebritsen
was known to be advocating ID at ISU in 2000 and BEFORE Dr. Gonzalez arrived at ISU in 2001.
Second, the DI does not tell readers how it is combining sentences
from different sections of a document in order create a fragmented syntax that
appears to target Gonzalez, if that means his tenure status. Here is the three
original sentences, snippets of which were recombined by the DI:
- Intelligent Design has become a
significant issue in science education, and it has now established a presence, even if minimal, at Iowa State University.
- Accordingly, if you are concerned
about the negative impact of
Intelligent Design on the integrity of science and on our university, please
consider signing the "Statement on Intelligent Design by Iowa State
University Faculty" below.
- We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the
integrity of our university of "science and technology," convey to
students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in
science, and reject efforts to portray
Intelligent Design as science.
none of those sentences, nor anywhere in the whole document, is Dr. Gonzalez
named. At that time our statement began to circulate, Dr. Gonzalez was not
well-known as an ID advocate to most faculty even at ISU, but only to the few
of us who studied ID or those in his department. The nature of "the presence at
ISU" was left unspecified in order not to draw attention specifically to Dr.
was Dr. Gonzalez who subsequently made his name well-known by identifying
himself very publicly as the supposed specific target of that faculty
statement. He made himself the
issue at a time we were trying to make ID the issue as our Statement plainly
he kept quiet, I doubt many faculty outside of his own department would have
even known who was advocating ID at ISU. I did not get e-mails wondering "who is the presence?" Or "what does
that in sentence #2 we express our worry about the impact of ID on the
integrity of science and on our university. We said we wanted to educate the
public. Now that is what the faculty cared about. The DI leaves that all that
out of its recombined syntax.
there is no inconsistency in my position quoted: "The statement...was in no way
targeted specifically at Gonzalez."
read the beginning of our faculty statement again: "We, the undersigned faculty
members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent
Design as a scientific endeavor." See
Statement does not say "we reject Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez" or "we reject Dr.
Gonzalez's tenure." It is ID we reject, and so how is that specifically
targeting Dr. Gonzalez unless Dr. Gonzalez embodies the whole of the ID
course what the DI did not reveal is my fuller account of the rationale for
that faculty statement, which eventually was signed by over 130 faculty members
at ISU, and about 400 faculty members in Iowa's three regent's
universities. In an e-mail (dated
6-3-07) I submitted as part of the open records request, and presumably also
obtained by the Discovery Institute, I presented the following more complete
rationale to Dr. John Hauptman, a professor in Dr. Gonzalez's own department:
cannot speak for every signatory, but I can tell you my motives had as much or
do with what was going outside of Iowa,
on the national scene, than what was going on here.
in my mind, was the fact that the Discovery Institute had been using ISU's name
when trying to introduce ID into school curricula in Texas, among other states
case in point is the 2003 textbook hearings in Austin, Texas in which William
Dembski, the most prominent advocate of ID, used the ID research taking place
at ISU to justify the introduction of ID into school textbooks.
for example, this extract from p. 34 of Dembski's portfolio as an expert
witness in such hearings:
Fine-Tuning and Anthropic Coincidences. Although this is a well worn area of study, there are some new
developments here that derive from a specifically design-theoretic perspective. Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant
professor of physics and astronomy
at Iowa State University, and Jay Richards, a senior fellow with Seattle's Discovery Institute,
have published The Privileged Planet in which they make a case for planet earth as intelligently designed
not only for life but also for
In other words, they argue that our world is designed to facilitate scientific discovery of its
own design. This work has been featured on the front cover of the October 2001 Scientific American. It
connects intelligent design in
biology to intelligent design in cosmology."
in June, the Smithsonian Institute featured a movie based on The Privileged
Planet, in an event which was again meant to highlight how research at Iowa
State was validating ID.
third development was the Dover trial which was about to begin in Pennsylvania
in September of 2005. That is still the most significant federal court case
President Bush had issued a statement on Monday, August 1 stating that he
favored introduction of ID into science classes as a way of teaching "both
sides." See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201686.html
petition began circulating on Tuesday, August 2, the day after Bush's
statements, even though it had been drafter prior to that.
all of these factors, I wanted to say that we, at ISU, did not think ID was
either a "new development" or science. Otherwise ID advocates were using our silence to validate
themselves, especially in states where they wanted to introduce it into
long as a lot of us were on record saying we did not think ID was science, then
Dr. Gonzalez's work on ID was not so much the issue. His tenure was not an
issue. What we wanted to stop is the unchallenged use of ISU's name to
So, it was not at all about Gonzalez's tenure, but rather about
the use of our university's good name to market ID. Gonzalez can say ID is science, but we can also say it's
Talk about flip flops
And lest we think that the DI has no flip-flops of its own, let's
play the same game with them, shall we?
On the one hand: Intelligent
Design is scientific, not religious.
On the other
hand: Being against intelligent design constitutes religious
On the one hand: We want
academic freedom declare Intelligent Design to be science.
On the other
hand: We will cry viewpoint discrimination if someone expresses the
opinion that ID is not science.
On the one hand: We want
scientists, not judges or politicians, to define science
On the other
hand: If scientists do not
define ID as science, then we will take our case to court and court politicians to achieve
On the one hand: ID advocates
are not creationists
On the other
proponentsists" (need we say more?)
Honesty and secrecy
general, the December 3 news conference was more of a bust than the DI
anticipated. And while the DI
complains that newspapers who do not agree with their position are tools of ISU
(see Evolution News and Views,
December 6, 2007), they forget that a local pastor admitted to being a puppet
of a DI fellow.
Weighing in on
Posted by Tim:
08/24/2005 :: Ministry News :: 1 comments on 002782
Well, my arm was twisted. Rather than
working hard on campus ministry stuff, I was coerced into writting a letter to the editor of the D.M.
Register regarding the Intelligent
Design debate. It went through a
major revision after Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez himself advised me
multiple times as to what to say and what not to say. This one got his blessing.
Hmm. Coerced? Arm twisted? Others would call it hypocrisy and a blatant attempt to hide the author's true identity. Reminds one of the famous Wedge Document that the DI secreted for a
while. So much for open records
and truthfulness. So much for higher ethical standards that ID would supposedly
bring to our society.
let the DI explain why it withholds information of its own when quoting those e-mails. Why not give the whole context so that
people can make up their minds? Why not quote the other side, and truly teach